President Magel attends the Ministerial Round Table at the ECOSOC High Level Segment 2003 in Geneva June 30, 2003

Prof. Holger Magel, President of FIG attended the Ministerial Round Table on Urban-Rural Interface and Slums on Monday 30 June 2003 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. This Round Table was part of the programme of the ECOSOC High Level Segment 2003 and organised by UN-HABITAT.

Prof. Magel was one of the eight invited panellists who were:

  • H.E., Dr. Ivan Simonovic, Deputy Foreign Minister of Croatia
  • Ms. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT
  • Hon. Raila Odinga, Minister of Roads, Public Works and Housing, Republic of Kenya
  • Hon. Edgar D. Maokola-Majogo, Minister of State, Tanzania
  • Prof. Holger Magel, President, International Federation of Surveyors
  • Ms. Mercedes Bresso, President, World Association of Cities & Local Authorities Coordination (WACLAC)
  • Mr. Alejandro Mackinnon, Genève Tiers-Monde (NGO)
  • Hon. Husni Abughaida, Minister of Housing and Public Works, Jordan

In his two statements President Magel underlined the need of a consequent spatial planning and a well balanced urban and rural development policy. With regard to the world wide successfully experienced "central places system" of W. Christaller and the complementary network of infrastructure access he encouraged the attending invitees and and delegates to establish a strong hierarchical or normative planning framework. But this top down approach must be equally completed by a participatory bottom up approach of the local and regional level. More than ever participation and capacity building of citizens, and slum dwellers is needed as well as better local policies and authorities.

Further President Magel warned not to focus only on urban problems and planning. Instead he encouraged to alleviate firstly or at least equally mainly the problems there where they originally arise, i.e in  the rural areas. He finally cited the former French Prime Minister Edgar Faure: "If the rural areas don't breathe furthermore, the cities will suffocate". FIG and its commissions have knowledge, competence and experiences enough to make fruitful contributions to this topic as a reliable partner of UN agencies.

President Magel attended the Ministerial Round Table on "Rural-Urban Interface and Slums". The Roundtable was co-chaired by H. E. Ivan Simonovic, Deputy Foreign Minister of Croatia and Ms. Anna K. Tibaijuka, Executive Director. In his summary to the Plenary Session Dr. Simonovic pointed out following conclusions:

  • The Ministerial Round Table on Rural-Urban Interface and Slums was held as scheduled June 30, 2003 from 16.20-18.15 hrs. It was co-chaired by myself and Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. Several Ministers, government officials and civil society actors participated in the Round Table.
  • The objective of the Round Table was to share experiences and explore the relevance of giving enhanced development policy attention to the rural-urban interface and the possible effects or impacts of such development approach on slum formation in cities in developing countries.
  • Participants reviewed the underlying economic and social causes of rural-to-urban migration and discussed in some detail the varying perceptions of rural and urban development. Panelists also discussed the role rapid rural-to-urban migration plays in the formation of slums in cities. Poverty was identified as a common denominator for both rural-to-urban population movement and slum formation in cities.
  • Panellists also shared experiences on the opportunities and constraints that are encountered in their own countries on this issue and arrived at the following conclusions/recommendations/suggestions:
  1. Governments may be better advised to create and /or strengthen mechanisms for a more holistic, consultative and participatory regional planning (rural-urban) approach and endeavour to enhance the potentials of both rural and urban areas through intensifying investments in physical, economic and social infrastructures. This would be expected to increase productivity and sustained economic growth in both rural and urban-industrial contexts.
  2. It was suggested that developing and/or strengthening the development of intermediate-size and tertiary towns and new rural service/growth centres would not only add value to rural products and stimulate the development of rural areas but would also dilute or moderate, if not reduce, the intensity of rural-to-urban migration and thereby reduce the intensity of slum formation in cities. A concomitant challenge here therefore is to ensure properly planned cities, towns and rural settlements with adequate transportation and service infrastructure interconnecting rural and urban markets.
  3. A decentralized cooperation model was suggested which involves local people, local organizations and stakeholders in participatory planning and development in a regional planning context. This model has been implemented in Europe and some developing countries to good effect.
  4. Investment in citywide infrastructure is considered a pre-condition for successful and affordable slum upgrading, as the lack of it is one strong mechanism by which the urban poor are excluded, and also by which improved slum housing remains unaffordable to them .At the core of efforts to improve the environmental habitability of slums and enhance economically productive activities in both rural and urban areas is the provision of basic infrastructure, especially water and sanitation, but also including electricity, access roads, footpaths and waste management.